As I stated in ‘DISCLAIMER,’ I am mostly self-taught. I know for certain that I am lead by the Spirit, but I also understand that the Spirit is only a guide me: He will not force me to obey. Unlike many believers I’ve met, I do not hold any false illusion that being under the influence of the Holy Spirit makes me infallible. The Spirit may prompt me, or make my hesitation to obey extremely uncomfortable, but, if I resist long enough, He will do as the Scriptures say: He will leave me to the consequences of my own choices. As I understand the Scriptures, a protection of infallibility would apply only to a prophet, and, even then, the stories of Moses, David and Jonah would seem to indicate that the blanket of infallibility has its limits. So, as has become my practice, I try to let the Spirit lead me to whatever teaching He wants me to read. Then, once I’ve read it, I rely on YHWH’s Word to tell me what I should make of that teaching.
In my case, I don’t have a mentor I can learn under, so I do a lot of reading outside of the Scriptures. I have internet brothers who help me check myself, but many of them are inclined to distrust most of what they read outside the Scriptures, especially when it comes from ‘experts.’ I do not fault these brothers for their skepticism; I, myself, am often skeptical of the things I read. However, when it comes to reading outside of Scripture, I have found a Scripture passage that serves both as a light to guide me and a shield to protect me:
1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.
I have my own understanding as to what the Scriptures mean by ‘prophetic utterances,’ so I am very discerning as to what I will and will not accept here. I have found that many believers have a very different understanding of what the Scriptures mean by, ‘prophet,’ and ‘prophetic.’ As a result, I cannot accept every ‘prophetic’ utterance offered to me because of the next part of this passage: to hold fast to what is good and avoid that which is evil.
This passage is also why I do not avoid reading so much outside of Scripture: because each believer is given a little, and the whole body benefits when those pieces are shared. It allows us to build each other up in our understanding of YHWH’s Word. It is also how I understand this passage: as an encouragement not to dismiss something simply because it does not come from the Scriptures, but to take care that we do not accept something evil, or dismiss something which is good. The trick — at least to my way of thinking — is in deciding what is good and what is not. Here again, Scripture gives us a guide:
The Scripture passage that has always guided and protected me in deciding what is good and what is not is:
Acts 17:11 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
The way I see this whole issue of reading outside of Scripture, or listening to the teachings of others is to take everything they say and test it against the Scriptures. If the teaching is sound, it will agree with Scripture. Hold on to it. If it does not agree with the Scriptures, then it should be discarded. For better or for worse, this is how I approach the material I find outside of the Scriptures: as a Berean.